Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation
Philosopher James H. Hyslop (1854-1920) was an important figure in American psychical research. He was director of the American Society for Psychical Research, and also conducted much research, including tests of the famous Leonora E. Piper. Furthermore he published many articles and books.
One of Hyslop’s books was Science and a Future Life (available here, and here). As the title indicates, the book was about survival of death, with emphasis on work conducted with Mrs. Piper. The author stated at the beginning: “The elaborate Reports of the Society for Psychical Research seldom get beyond the shelves of its members . . . I have endeavored in the present volume to summarise the most important of the Society’s work, more especially with reference to such matter as might
claim to bear upon the problem of a future life . . . I have not intended that the book should satisfy the more exacting scientific standards, but serve the purpose of inducing the scientific psychologist to go to the detailed records where his demands may be better satisfied, and give the general reader some conception of the complexity of the problem with which we have to deal. Hence I have only given samples of the facts which are accessible for the student . . .”
This is an excellent book to obtain information about the work with Piper conducted by Richard Hodgson and Hyslop, among others. As Hyslop stated in his introduction the work summarizes reports found in the pages of the Proceedings f the Society for Psychical Research. In fact, this work is one of the best summaries of the initial work done with Piper in the Nineteenth Century.
But the work also presents analyses of possible explanations, and Hyslop defended the spirit agency explanation. A particularly interesting chapter is that entitled “Conditions Affecting the ‘Communications.’ ” Here Hyslop writes about confusions and trivialities in the commnunications caused by various interfering processes. “They are (1) the intramediumistic conditions through which the messages have to come, or the physical and mental conditions of the medium; (2) the intercosmic conditions existing between the ‘communicator’ and those of the medium, and (3) the mental condition of the ‘communicators.’ The second of these divides into three classes, those affecting the transmission of a message from the ordinary ‘communicator’ to the ‘control,’ those affecting the ‘control’s’ interpretation of the messages received, and those affecting the ‘control’s’ ability to send them through the medium’s organism.”
This book is highly recommended as a representative of a survival interpretation of Piper’s communications, as well as an able summary of many of the medium’s early performances.
Selected Examples of Other Publications by Hyslop